Monday, January 21, 2008

Rules for Saying Goodbye by Katherine Taylor

I love the title of this book. Every time I walked past it on the "new release" shelf, it caught my eye. But I was always looking for a specific book. Finally I picked it up to find out what it was about. The blurb on the jacket said something along the lines of, "Katherine's in Rome and she's just broken up with her boyfriend and she needs to get her act together."

I had just returned from Rome. After taking a big trip, I like to bask in the memories, spending forever organizing the vacation photos and reading about the places I saw. Seemed like a good reason to check this out.

Well, the blurb is stupid and misleading. This isn't about about a woman in Rome trying to recover from a bad relationship. The event mentioned in the blurb doesn't happened until near the end of the book. The part of the book that takes place in Rome is a very small, and rather minor part of the story. London also plays a role in the story, but most of the action takes place in New York City -- areas of New York that are familiar to me and added to my reasons for liking this book -- despite being misled by the book jacket.

It isn't quite literature, but it is significantly better than the typical, "chick lit" filling the shelves these days. This is more along the lines of Melissa Banks' books. (I loved Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing and Wonder Spot.)

This is the story of Kate and follows her life from attending a boarding school in Massachusetts to going to college in California and then moving into a rent controlled apartment in New York. She's trying to be a writer, but her life is quite comfortable working as a bartender, staying up all night and sleeping during the day. Sometimes she dates, sometimes she falls for guys and at one point she moves to London with a guy who eventually provides the inspiration for the essay titled: Rules for Saying Goodbye. She returns to New York and goes back to bartending and develops something of an email relationship with another European guy. She moves to Rome, she falls in love with the email guy. He proposes, she meets his family and somewhere along the way, she becomes aware of what she wants in her life, or rather what she doesn't want.

What I enjoyed about the book was the way the characters rang true. From her crazy, selfish mother to her strange cousins and unstable classmates, these never felt false. I could recognize my friends and myself in the people she described as she reached adulthood. The life she detailed reminded me of the life I wished I'd lived when I was younger. I know people like her and her acquaintances. These are "my people" -- the writers, artists, musicians, actors, bartenders.

But a glance at some of the harsh reviews on amazon displays that these people are not for everyone. We don't fit into the expected mold, the sort who grow up, see the light and focus our lives on pairing up and reproducing. But it's nice to find a book like this and realize that we do exist.

She wasn't especially ambitious, (sadly, again I can relate) but she did care more about having a career than having a man. She cared about her friends and cared about the people who were important to her. She'd not the typical heroine, in hot pursuit of a man, any man to put a ring on her finger, which some people may find disconcerting.

I liked the book. It's a light read, but a fun read. I loved the characters in the story, after the book was over I wanted to know more. But I got the distinct impression that part of the story was over. She left New York, she moved to L.A., putting that part of her life behind her. Time to grow up or at least start over in a new place. It's a nice book and lately, I've been recommending it to everyone who brings up the subject of books.